LIFESTYLE

Market Both Boom And Bust For Venezuelan Mannequin Maker

MIAMI BEACH, FL - APRIL 26:  A mannequin that sports extra large breasts is seen in the display window of the Ocean 9ine store on April 26, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. A recent phenomenon in curvy mannequins is thought to be a reflection in the number of women who now have plastic surgery as well as catering to men's fondness for large boobs.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI BEACH, FL - APRIL 26: A mannequin that sports extra large breasts is seen in the display window of the Ocean 9ine store on April 26, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. A recent phenomenon in curvy mannequins is thought to be a reflection in the number of women who now have plastic surgery as well as catering to men's fondness for large boobs. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

When Hugo Chávez was president of Venezuela, he promised big changes for the country. He probably wasn’t thinking about the clothing store dummies.

But it is the case that the mannequins have undergone a radical transformation, one that reflects the popularity of breast augmentation and stomach reduction surgery and its taste for bulging busts, tiny waists, and padded buttocks. Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Eliezer Álvarez, whose mannequin manufacturing business was suffering with the old, rail-thin models. After he redesigned the mannequins to reflect the new, curvy idealized notion of beauty, sales shot through the roof.

“You see a woman like this and you say, ‘Wow, I want to look like her,’ ” Reina Parada, one of Álvarez’s workers recently told The New York Times. “It gives you better self-esteem.”

The popularity of plastic surgery has created an environment in which omen talk openly about their implants and surgeries. Unlike other countries, such “self-improvements” don’t carry a negative social stigma, and the country’s massive oil revenues have helped to create a culture of consumerism.

“Venezuela is known for its oil, and it’s known for its beauty,” Lauren Gulbas, a feminist scholar and anthropologist at Dartmouth, told the Times. “That ties into why it’s perceived as so important to Venezuelans.”

The idea of voluptuous models is not entirely new. Top- and bottom-heavy mannequins have been popular in Miami for years, and are growing in popularity in other US markets such as New York City (where stores selling sex toys increasingly favor them).

“We started selling three different kinds of large breasted mannequins last year – Jessica, Mary and Anita – and we’ve sold around 300 already,” Mike Wang, partner of wholesalers Rox Studio, in New York, told Metro online. “There’s no doubt that they grab people’s attention in shop windows.”

In the U.S. most mannequins are size 4 or 6, a broad departure from the average American woman, who wears a size 14.

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